Who Do You Trust?

There is so often discussion of the reputation of lawyers. Bad lawyer jokes are a staple of the unwitting. Without fail, when introduced at a cocktail party, some hapless attendee thinks I need to hear the latest slur. My favorite is that "99% of lawyers give all the rest a bad name." HAHAHAHAHA. (Not funny). Unfortunately, there are some lawyers out there that do not do much to enhance the public image.
Last year, I noted the Disciplinary Revocation petition of one (August 2022). That story had some similarities to a Disciplined Attorney and Repercussions (September 2018), followed by Then Arrested (August 2020). I have written on how discipline impacts Public Confidence (July 2022) as regards judges. Judges and their public image seem to find the news readily. See Revisiting Judicial Discipline (May 2022) and Sign Language and Curiosities (July 2022). Why do we focus on these people? Simply put, you can learn a great deal from a bad example.
I recently ran across a headline for an article about ethics and public perception Nurses Retain Top Ethics Rating in U.S., but Below 2020 High (Gallup, 2023). It details a poll conducted by the good folks at Gallup in late 2022. This is part of an ongoing effort. The organization began gauging American trust in professions almost 50 years ago (1976) and found the subject worthy of annual attention over 30 years ago (1990). 
The question posed to survey participants was reasonably simple 
"Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, low or very low?"
The results are interesting and perhaps enlightening (disturbing?). In order of their ranking for "Very High," the following list ranks the top ten: Nurses, Medical Doctors, Pharmacists, High School Teachers, Police Officers, Clergy, Judges, Accountants, Labor Union Leaders, and Bankers. It is gratifying to be in the top ten. If the "Very High" and the "High" are combined, we Judges slip back one slot under Accountants. Is it possible that the poll results are based less on personal experience than perceptions from the news or other sources? Seriously, when was the last time you met a "labor union leader" at a local holiday reception?
Attorneys did not make the top ten. They came in number 13 on the list following Bankers and Real Estate Agents. They proudly bested Journalists, Advertising Practitioners, Business Executives, Car Salespeople, and Members of Congress. Don't think that our elected representatives are the least trusted. They edged out Telemarketers, but only slightly. Members of Congress were in a five-way tie for last place in the "Very High" category with 2% (Advertising Practitioners through Telemarketers). But, they edged out the Telemarketers with a 7% "High" rating compared to Telemarketers' 4%. That reminds me of the persistent, and unfounded slurs against the great state of Mississippi. 
Another way to look at these numbers is the "Low" or "Very Low" ratings. Both Telemarketers and Members of Congress were tied with 25% "Very Low." But Members of Congress edged them out with the "Low" by 37% to 34%. Members of Congress combined in these two categories for 62% negative perceptions regarding "honesty and ethical standards." Telemarketers had a slightly less pervasive combination in these two negative categories, only 59%. That has to be tough to accept if you are in the marketing profession. 
One wonders, perhaps, how these combine. If you are Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, a nurse, do we average the scores? Is your primary occupation a balm for the affiliation with Congress? That is likely as irrelevant as the fact that almost all judges are also lawyers, or that most telemarketers are also champions at interrupting my dinner. A generality, unfounded perhaps?
In comparison regarding the "Very Low" ratings, consider both lawyers (9%) and judges (6%); these are not so dissimilar. The "Low" are likewise similar lawyers (19%) and judges (13%). Thus, when these two are combined we see judges are ranked "Low" or "Very Low" by 19% of respondents while lawyers are ranked in those categories by 28%. Neither is an admirable position. I will gladly take the lower, however. 
Comparing the "Very High" with the "Very Low" is interesting. For judges, this is a ("Very High" - VH) to ("Very Low" - VL) comparison of 8% ("VH") to 6% ("VL"), near parity.  For attorneys, it is this is a 3% ("VH") to 9% ("VL") comparison. Neither is very flattering. If the favorable ("Very High" - VH and "High" - H) are compared to the unfavorable ("Very Low" - VL and "Low" - L), Judges are 39% (favorable) and 19% (unfavorable). Lawyers are 21% (favorable) and 25% (unfavorable). That imbalance might be telling in the broader context. 
In all, the numbers can be tortured into a variety of comparisons. At the end of the day, it turns out that the legal profession is not so admired or trusted. It is possible that the smiling pictures on the side of buses, bus benches, and more contribute to that, or the increasingly low-brow advertisement campaigns we see and hear in the media? As the legal profession is perceived by some as increasingly acting like Telemarketers and Car Salespeople, are these comparable numbers unavoidable? And, is that the fault of Lawyers or could we blame the Advertising Professionals instead? How much of public image is media related, whether news or advertising?
That said, it was a glorious day when I "cut the cable" and no longer had to endure the base advertisements of the Alabamians I will not label as a profession. Those ads are unfortunately so sad that they cannot even be parodied. They are parodies already. Why do those buffoons embarrass us all with their horrible and demeaning ads? Well, simply stated, because they work. Perhaps not for those who respond to polls, but for those who respond to ads. Trust me, if the advertisement onslaught for any business did not bring customers, the companies would stop paying for the ads. 
Who do you trust? An interesting and informative effort from the Gallup poll. If your profession is not listed and the topic comes up at a cocktail party, tell them you are a nurse. If someone tells you they are a lawyer, give them a break and tell an "Advertising Professional" joke. 
By Judge David Langham
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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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